This latter-day sort-of Western from John Ford--falling midway between The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--is a crisp retelling of a true-life episode from the Civil War. In 1863 a Union colonel named Grierson (Marlowe in the film, and John Wayne by any name) led his cavalry several hundred miles behind Confederate lines to cut the railroad between Newton Station and soon-to-be-embattled Vicksburg. Grierson's Raid was as successful as it was daring, and remarkably bloodless. Never fear that the screenplay makes up for that un-Hollywood lapse--as well as supplying amatory distraction for the colonel in the form of a feisty Southern belle (Constance Towers) who has to be dragged along to protect secrecy.
There's a certain amount of bombast in the running arguments about wartime ethics between Marlowe and the new regimental surgeon (William Holden), who don't take to each other at all. But Ford more than makes up for it with such tasty scenes as an encounter with a couple of redneck Rebel deserters (Denver Pyle and Strother Martin), an ethereal swamp crossing led by a cornpone deacon (Hank Worden), and above all the famous skirmish with a hillside full of grade-school cadets from a venerable military academy. The film ends rather abruptly because Ford abandoned a climactic battle scene--the veteran stunt man and bit player Fred Kennedy having been killed in a horse fall. Golden-age cowboy star Hoot Gibson, who acted in Ford's directorial debut, Straight Shooting, appears as Sergeant Brown. --Richard T. Jameson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The movie of course isn't accurate but that doesn't matter. The drama and action are great and there isn't any silly romance to ruin things. Constance Towers' presence helps in the development of John Wayne's character but doesn't slip into any thing that distracts from the main part of the movie.
There are also some great battle scenes. My favorite is the VMI cadet charge. This was also based on a real event that apparently wasn't as big of a deal as in the movie but is still interesting to read about if you get a chance.
I recommend this movie to all John Wayne and Civil War movie buffs.
I have one "if only," but it is a bigee: if only they had left out the insipid, incredible romantic subplot (which adds nothing to plot or picture), this would have been one of the great Civil War movies. I suppose that Ford thought if he didn't add this the ladies would stay away, to which I say, "So what?"
With that out of my system, there is still a lot to enjoy in this pic. The usual, Fordian conflicts among strong male characters (notably between Wayne and Holden) are there as are the comic moments ("Now lookee, here. The sun comes up in the east, don't it?" "Well it does in Missouri!" "Well if that's the east, we're ridin' south! Straight into Reb country!"). The plot is standard "dangerous mission" genre. There is lots of action, lots of shooting, and that last obstacle to get by.
Wayne's character is interesting. Far from a professional military man, he is a railroad engineer sent, reluctantly, to destroy railroads-- and he has his own reason to hate doctors. Holden is a military doctor with no fear of higher command (Wayne). These two strong personalities play well off one another.
Ford has also been unjustly criticized for setting up weak opponents. _The Horse Soldiers_ undercuts that. Nathan Bedford Forrest, an ever lurking presence, dogs the cavalry column which is attacked at least three times.Read more ›
John Ford captures, in vivid, robust color, the pageantry of the Union and Confederate cavalries. With flags flying, horses pounding, and bugles blaring, Ford and Wayne create sheer movie entertainment. The musical score by David Buttolph perfectly captures the varying moods of the film and complements the stirring visual images. From "I Left My Love" to the "Bonnie Blue Flag," the music accents the film's emotions. William Holden and Constance Towers are well-cast as Wayne's nemesis. The supporting cast is bolstered with many Wayne regulars, including Ken Curtus (Festus from "Gunsmoke").
Many criticize the factual inaccuracies in John Wayne films. So what! He didn't intend to make documentaries, he intended to make rousing, entertaining movies. I will always believe this was his best...
Most recent customer reviews
I love John Wayne movies but this one is a stretch. Starts well but just feels unfinished at the end, not surprising based on what sounded like a challenging production. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Anthony Taylor
one of the duke's best early movies. any john wayne fan will love this one.Published 6 months ago by Art Mckie
More of the same. John Wayne saves the world or at least a small portion of it.Published 12 months ago by Leonard Tedds
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